Managing Stress as a Christian
The lives we lead today are fuller and faster than we’d like. Margin and rest are myths, and the concept of Sabbath is foreign to most. Can a modern believer manage, or even overcome, the inevitable result of such a busy lifestyle? Let’s take a deeper look at what it means to manage stress as a Christian.
Causes of Stress
Stress is the body and mind’s response to challenge, demand, or change. Everyone’s stress response looks different, and everyone gets stressed by different things. We most likely relate the word stress to negative things, like too much on the to-do list or not enough income…but we can get stressed by positive events also..a job promotion, new baby, house renovations…all of these things are “good” but are, indeed, stressors. The causes of stress are as unique as the person experiencing it, but the ways it affects our bodies are similar. When we are stressed, we typically experience elevated heart rate, blood pressure, racing thoughts, a shift in emotion, changed thoughts and beliefs, and sometimes even pain.
Stress and Spirituality
So, as a believer, what does stress mean to you? Does it mean that Christ isn’t enough, or that you aren’t really saved? Of course not. But because stress is a phenomenon that affects our entire person (mind, body, spirit), there must be a portion of it that is spiritual. Christianity is often misunderstood as a “fix it” religion…a fluffy, happy face, crutch that teaches that everything should be ok because “God is good”. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus came not to fix the challenges of life, but to offer us life in abundance in the midst of it.
God is not necessarily interested in removing difficulty from your life. He is, however, interested in making you like Jesus. The life of Christ was anything but stress-free. And yet, He is the one who offers us His easy-yoke and light burden.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matt 11:28-30
Stress is part of life. And so just like every other part of life, Christians must respond to it in a way that is different from the world. Therefore, rather than letting stress become a peace theft, let us believers work towards treating stress as an opportunity to elevate Jesus.
8 Effective Techniques for Managing Stress
1. Fuel Your Physical
What are you putting in your body? I’m not asking you to go on a diet, I’m suggesting you take a look at how you are hindering yourself. Listen to your body! The spirit is NOT this totally separate thing, floating above your body, detached from what you’re feeling physically. If you are addicted to sugar/alcohol/caffeine, it will affect sleep. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, it will prevent you from spending time in
prayer/relationship/ministry/etc…That is only one example, but the point is that it’s all connected! Take care of your body so that when you are stressed, your physical health isn’t an added hindrance.
2. Priorities and Perspective
When our priorities and perspective are not in line with God’s, we are bound for trouble. What are you placing on the top shelf of your life? What do you give your most energy and attention to? How do you view the world? Take time to adjust these things so that you are walking in agreement with the Holy Spirit. For me, sometimes this is all it takes. A simple fix of perspective will change so much! In a YWAM Discipleship Training School, students are given life changing teaching on how to adjust their worldview and perspective to align with Biblical realities. It is nothing short of transformational! Ask God to reveal idolatry, unhealthy priorities, and areas where your perspective is broken.
3. Survey and Edit
What are you watching, listening to, reading? What are you gazing upon? After the last 2 years, it’s become very obvious to me that when I am giving a bunch of my time and thoughts to the news and headlines, I will get stressed out by it. When I watch movies or shows that have explicit material, it will mess with my thought life. It’s not being ignorant or prude to say “no” to things that don’t lead you to life. It’s wisdom. So survey what you are allowing in your life, and edit out the things (sinful or not) that are just simply not serving your spirit fresh water. As you read this, you probably already know what those things are.
4. Get in the Word
As you edit things out of your life, you must replace them with Truth. The Word of God is not an optional, good idea in the life of the Christian. There’s just something about being in the Bible that enables us to handle the stresses of life better. It’s one of the Holy Spirit’s ways to speak to you and when you neglect it, you limit your own toolbox. Note; if you are in need of professional counseling or therapy, please seek those out. Don’t use Scripture as an excuse to avoid those things. YWAM schools are an excellent place to get a foundational understanding of scripture if you aren’t sure where to begin.
God designed our hearts to come alive when we are outside of ourselves. Somehow the troubles I am facing get so much smaller when I am focusing on helping someone else. True service to others is a quick way to get your spirit back on track. If you’re not sure where to start, look up a local homeless or women’s shelter, soup kitchen, or food pantry. Or ask your pastor about ways your church needs volunteer help.
This isn’t just for artists. Getting your hands on some soil, bread dough, or a pen can be a wonderful way to alleviate long-term and chronic stress. Allow yourself to put your never ending tasks on pause, and create. Make dinner from scratch, pluck a new chord progression on your guitar, write a Haiku. This is another way to use the physical to impact the mental and spiritual.
I can’t prove this, but I have a feeling the rising stress/depression/anxiety diagnoses we are seeing is due to the decline of people setting aside 24 hours a week for rest and play. The Lord was so kind and wise in setting this pattern and precedent for us, and we do ourselves a massive favor when we obey and abide by it. I have a more productive work week, better sleep, and lighter moods when I have been intentional with my Sabbath.
“You become like what you worship. When you gaze in awe, admiration, and wonder at something or someone, you begin to take on something of the character of the object of your worship.”
As we look upon our Savior and renew our understanding of Him through praise, the unique difficulties we face change. We receive revelation, comfort, guidance, peace, and joy. You were made to worship. If you aren’t pouring out your oil of praise at the feet of Jesus, you will be doing it elsewhere. But it is only when we worship God that we are edified beyond measure in return.
As mentioned before, stress is part of life. It is inescapable. Let this be the last day that you treat it as an injustice, and begin to view it as an opportunity. Overcoming stress as a believer must be approached through a God-centered worldview. Christians have access to the Spirit of God, and thus have an eternally expansive tool kit to approach any situation with. If you have questions about the Holy Spirit or the Christian life, we’d like to invite you to our next YWAM DTS. At YWAM Asheville, we are passionate about seeing Christians equipped to live in the abundance God has provided. Join us! The only YWAM DTS requirements are a highschool diploma and a heart ready to say YES to God.